I had a suicidal thought today. As I lay waiting in the 16th floor lobby of a G-I specialty institute at Emory Atlanta, I looked out the window, saw the great height, and for a moment, longed to run and jump to my death. I cringed at horror at the vileness of my own mind, and in reflection, I realized why.
I've always considered myself a tough, strong person. I've always considered myself a survivor, a child of the frontier and the high north, an adventurer. And on a level I am. But there is something about a condition that had troubled your life for as long as my ulcer that was supposed to go away 2 months ago and now you face the possibility of a much grimmer prognosis. There is something that destroys your very image of yourself, cuts your own roots, salts your own soil, makes you shrivel before the threat in front of you and takes away even those whose faces should be in front of you.
But I withheld myself. I remembered my God, and his will, and certain prophecies I had inherited, and I knew it was not my time, nor would my God ever let me die that way but either through the process of nature, or natural consequences, or the dignity of good martyrdom. I withheld myself and held strong in my seat. And it's good I did, and God was righteous to avise me beyond and teach me once again who I was, a strong young man in his hands, a reasonably okay servant, but still a servant nonetheless, and beyond that, someone who had, one way or another, touched the lives of many people, and would defile the affections and loyalties of many if I were to take my own life. See, I am a human being, a real living person, who has friends, relatives, classmates, churchmates, a cluster of loving people all around me. I don't appreciate them enough, not nearly enough, if I had this horrid thought would've never come to my mind, but God was there for me, even as I was alone there, and pulled me through it through his righteousness and justice.
I also realized that, if I had betrayed God like that, I would not just receive Hell, I would deserve it.
But there are some who would want me to jump. There are some who are worried about cost, and see me as a number, an expense, not a familiar face or a friend or a family member. There are some who, for the sake of the economy, want me to give up.
Of course, then again, this is too narrow of a view, because in general (healthcare cost being, perhaps, the only exception) all sectors of the economy do better with people who don't give up but have iron resolve. Adventurers. Conquerors. Goldminers. Frontiersmen. These are the people who built cities, and, to a point, still build them. Those outcasts who parouse the streets in their cockeyed hats with a stint in their step, a smirk on their face and a dream in their eyes, the people who don't fit all the "roles" that society has for them but forge their own trail. You know, the guys (and Annie Oakleys) who can face the freezing cold and through their own innate toughness, stubbornness and everything not societyness, make it back to camp with their own honor and life in their hand, and can head 1500 miles west from home against the better advice from all their friends and build the Golden State.
But back to the point. So I didn't give up, and my friends couldn't be happier. So what about this VA Death Book we keep on hearing about? I know many consider it to be encouraging the self-destruction of the weak and disabled -how very Spartan- and I will say, while in general the pamphlet does aim to be non-partisan and balanced (maybe,) there are some suggestions in it (like requesting to not be revived with CPR, which causes no harm and has no cost later on) that seem odd and out of place and a few lines of logic (like "Even if you are conscious, you will not be able to talk very well or at all."(35) Ever heard of writing and typing? Worked well for Steven Hawking all these years!) that are just plain stupid and perhaps even manipulative. Perhaps "If you have a terminal illness, a mechanical ventilator will only prolong dying." (35) is the most cynical line of all. How about "prolong living"!
While there is no single quote that you can point to in this book and say "this advocates giving up," the basic attitude of anybody finding simply having to write instead of talk reason to give up wanting to live another few weeks is disgusting. Further, as any good English student knows, putting this phrase, "even if they might not have wanted it" (34), after a comma is an element of irony, telling the reader that this is not a good situation rather then letting him decide for himself. In fact, really, it's not aiming to be non-partisan and balanced, it's aiming to look non-partisan and balanced while, discreetly and quietly, handing them something completely different under the table, "even if they might not have wanted it." (34)